Spreading the food dollar further
I've just come back from Paris. We spent a large part of our travel budget on food. But we were working with almost double the dollar converting our Australian Dollars to Euros.
As already mentioned, there are lots of street vendors where you can buy food to eat while walking around (something a lot of people in Paris do). There are supermarkets, but by far it is more fun, and the Parisian thing to do, to shop in the market streets, such as Montorguiel, and get some fresh bread from the Boulangerie, fresh cheese from the Fromagerie, and fresh dessert from the Pattisserie.
If you are finding it hard to stretch those dollars, there is a soup kitchen in the back of St Eustache Cathedral, near Les Halles. We didn't eat there, but we walked past it every night on our way "home" and it smelled delicious!
Stories told by Fantastic Sculptures
The sculptures on the front of the Notre Dame tell many religious stories, and can often show you the stereotypes and beliefs of the past. My tour guide told me of a few of the stories that some of these sculptures tell.
In the main picture, this sculpture portrays Sinagoga, and also a Jewish person by past stereotype. She has a helmet covering her eyes, showing how the Catholics thought the Jewish religion was blind. A snake is in front of her eyes and around her heart, representing evil. Her crown is at her feet. As you can tell, Christians were very hostile towards the Jewish religion.
In the third picture, you can see the Last Judgement. Michael is weighing the souls of countless people, while the devil is waiting to see the outcome. Above that is the Heavenly Court. Below that, you can see the dead being brought back from their tombs.
see and visit Montmartre and...
see and visit Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur
Mention Montmartre, and the first thing that springs to many people's minds is the infamous Moulin Rouge. Situated at Place Blanche, this legendary cabaret venue was captured on posters by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) who frequented the district. It was he who sketched the renowned picture of can-can dancer Jane Avril, and it was here that the first ever fully-nude striptease was performed. You'll spot the Moulin Rouge under its trademark red neon windmill, and you can still watch the dancing girls - provided you can afford the steep entry price and get through the battalion of tour buses parked outside. Admission costs in the region of FF230 if you opt to prop up the bar, rising to around FF495 for a seat. There are usually three shows a day, with a champagne dinner costing around FF720.
Of course, there is a lot more to the Montmartre area than a bunch of glamorous women doing seemingly impossible things with their legs. This colourful Parisian 'village' - set on the highest point of the city - is a curious blend of olde worlde charm and seedy side streets offering sex shows and tourist trinkets. With a little imagination and a sense of adventure, you can leave such symbols of blatant commercialism behind and sample a taste of the place that has enchanted writers and artists for over 100 years.
A Little History
According to legend, St Denis - the first bishop of
Paris - was decapitated by the Romans in AD 287 on the hillside. Not one to let a small beheading ruin his day, St Denis picked up his detached cranium and proceeded to place it where the basilica of St-Denis now stands. The hill duly became known as Mons Martyrium (or Martyrs' Mound).
Fast-forward to the 12th century, and the construction of a Benedictine convent on the site. This was duly destroyed during the Revolution when the last Mother Superior went to the guillotine. Her executioners obviously didn't take into account her advanced years - she was 82 - as well as her blindness and deafness.
During the 19th century, Montmartre was mined for gypsum, and maintained a rural ambience which attracted painters and writers in their droves. Many a drink was consumed within the bars and dance halls, where Impressionism, Fauvism and Cubism took shape.
Around the time of World War I, the artistic heart of Montmartre decamped to Montparnasse, leaving the area at the mercy of the sex-shop owners and proprietors of cheap hotels. However, recent years have seen something of a renaissance taking place, with stylish clubs, restaurants and bars springing up.
Dominating the landscape of Montmartre is the Basilique du Sacre Coeur, which sits at the very summit of the Butte de Montmartre (Montmartre Hill). It was built in the 1870s after a group of Roman Catholics pledged to create a church there if Paris was delivered safely from the Prussian siege. Indeed, the heart of one of the men now rests in a stone urn in the basilica crypt. It was not properly consecrated until after the war in 1919, and today offers the second finest view of Paris from its dome - the Eiffel Tower still holds top honours. Focal point from the outside is the 83-metre (262-ft) belltower. It contains one of the world's heaviest bells, tipping the scales at a monstrous 19 tonnes. Anyone feeling fit can climb the 237 narrow, spiral steps to the top (admission fees apply) to take in the breathtaking city panorama. You can also view the vast interior which has little of any real interest to visitors, aside from the Byzantine mosaic of Christ by Luc Olivier Merson.
Place du Tertre
Just to the west of Sacre-Coeur is Place du Tertre, formerly the main square of the village of Montmartre. This is truly the commercial heart of the area, with plenty of vendors anxious to relieve tourists of their spending money. Packed with 'authentic' bistros and craft shops, Place du Tertre is also home to dozens of would-be artists committed to capturing your likeness on paper. Not backwards at coming forwards, these pavement pirates vie vociferously for your attention, so keep your wits about you at all times.
Espace Montmartre Salvador Dali
Fans of the flamboyant Catalan artist Salvador Dali can view over 300 of his works here at this museum dedicated to his memory. Exhibits include sculptures and his famous 'bendy' clocks which he claimed represented 'the fluidity of time'. The museum is open daily from 10am to 6pm, with admission costing approximately FF35 (FF25 reduced rate).
Cimetiere de Montmartre
This is one of the most famous cemeteries in Paris, and bears witness to the artistic leanings of the area. Established in 1798, its elegantly sculpted tombs are the final resting places of such luminaries as novelist Alexandre Dumas, painter Edgar Degas, dancer Waslaw Nijinsky and the composers Jacques Offenbach and Hector Berlioz. A more recent addition was the film director Francois Truffaut, who was laid to rest here in 1984. The cemetery is open daily from around 8am to 6pm.
Nice people!!! Understaffed restaurants
People in Paris are really, really nice. They have different norms of education and I supose they find annoying and rude some of our own manners. I found them, however, very tolerant to my rudeness. Even after I had forgotten saying 'hello' as entering a store and going straight for the merchandise (something I knew was wrong from other VT tips and was trying to correct) they would not match my lack of politeness.
I did find, though, that many restaurants and cafes are very understaffed and waiters were clearly stressed and take their time to take your order. I saw one waiter prepare a table in such a hurry that the knife and fork felt to the floor. He had basically just thrown them at the costumers who, understandably, left the place. But in many other places they were very friendly...even flirty.
Have you ever wondered how ...
Parisians move in and out of those 6th floor walk-ups?
The answer is here. Hire a "Demenagement" expert who will lower your grand piano safely to the street.
I took these pictures while I was on my way to the airport in Feb 2006.